Maybe the weather has been a little gray. Maybe the evening news makes you want to weep. What about things in your personal life? How’s that going? Work?
While you may think there are a lot of reasons to be glum, wallowing in a negative place won’t help you get what you want out of life.
Most of us will have to face adversity or significant challenges over the course of our lives. When you do have a setback, it’s your resilience, or the ability to tap into your inner strength, that can help you bounce back faster.
I’m not talking about depression. That’s a whole other story. That’s a condition that should be treated professionally. When depression isn’t part of the equation, resilience is what pulls us through to success.
From the extraordinary to the everyday
There are many amazing stories of ordinary people using resilience to survive extraordinary (and awful) circumstances.
- In 2010, 33 miners in Chile used resilience to help each other survive for more than two months trapped underground.
- Christopher Reeve became a passionate activist for spinal cord injuries after he was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident.
- Victor Frankl used his experience in three of the most notorious World War II concentration camps to help others find meaning in life.
Even though your experiences will hopefully never come close to the hardships they endured, your life stresses can have a lasting impact. It’s the same resilience that got these men through their ordeals that can help you move from surviving to thriving when life is not going your way.
Are you born with it?
The good news is that resilience is not a trait that you either have or don’t have. Resilience is something you can learn and practice. In many ways, it’s a choice.
In Victor Frankl most famous work, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, he describes life in a Nazi concentration camp and how those who survived were often the ones who maintained a sense of control and looked for ways to find meaning in their lives despite the suffering all around them.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
By choosing your attitude, you gain power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances taking your power away.
What is resilience?
Resilience is about monitoring and moderating your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. It’s about taking care of yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially.
There are some very specific steps you can take to build resilience by
- Regulating your emotions and how you react to circumstances
- Controlling your impulses
- Showing empathy
- Striving for optimism
- Knowing yourself so you can understand the cause of your actions and reactions
- Practicing a bit of self-efficacy
- Reaching out to others to help you through
11 tips for building resilience
Try incorporating these behaviours and actions into your daily life and see what a huge difference it can make.
- You can’t always leave all your emotions at the door, but you can work on regulating your reactions and allowing your emotions to take over. Remember to take deep breaths instead of throwing a stapler across the room is a good first step.
- Don’t think or talk in absolutes – stay away from “This is the worst thing ever”, “I will never get over this”, or declarations of “I can’t do this”. These are all statements that take away your power.
- Don’t fight change. Even though denial is a part of grief, acceptance allows you to move forward. The sooner you stop fighting against the things you cannot change and start moving forward, the better you will be.
- Look inside for your strength – what has gotten you through difficult experiences before? What’s happened when you haven’t given up? How can you draw on that strength again?
- Be gentle with yourself and others. Whether you’ve been wronged or if you’ve messed up, anger and resentment, whether it’s directed at yourself or others, will only keep you in a negative space. It doesn’t mean acting like a doormat for others, but it does mean letting go.
- Using optimism for the future will help you get past the crappiness of today. Optimism is about looking ahead with hope instead of back with despair. It allows you to keep things in perspective. Instead of focusing on fears and anxiety related to the event, consider visualizing getting what you want, achieving your goals, and having the life you want.
- When something crappy happens, without dwelling on the negative, review the crappiness and give it a reality check. Was it completely out of your control? Did you contribute to the events? How can you learn from the experience? Tread carefully. This should not be about self-blame or recrimination; this is about learning.
- This is the time to engage in healthy habits. Eat well, get sleep, get outside, and exercise. All of these points will help you feel better and give you the strength to deal with life.
- In the same vein, practice impulse control. Stay way from the behaviours that may feel good in the moment, but will only make you feel worse in the long run. That chocolate bar will not make the problem go away. Either will that drink. Be aware of habits that could drag you down.
- Tap into your social network for advice, support, and to get your mind off of the hardship. Go out and do something fun. Do something that reminds you that the ups and downs are part of life and this too shall pass.
- Tap into your gratitude. Gratitude is all the rage these days – that’s because it works. By focusing on the things you are grateful for, you reset your thinking away from the negative. It reminds you that even when things are bleak, there are plenty of good things in life.
Crappy situations are always crappy. But you don’t have to get stuck there. When you build resilience, you can rely on yourself to see you through. That’s where power comes from. There is tons more to share from positive psychology and neuroscience to help you build your resilience but start here and you’re on your way.